Tips for Packing


G-d has given me a talent for packing. And if you are laughing to yourself, thinking that packing requires no talent, I would beg to differ with you. If not done properly, the consequences are not pleasant. This includes packing for a simple vacation, trip, or packing to move from one house to another, and definitely from one country to another.

I often wondered why G-d gave me this talent….but now I realize it is probably because I had to use it a lot! Since getting married, I have moved at least 12 times and traveled numerous times as well. So, based on my wealth of experience, I would like to offer tips about packing and moving.

1. Packing requires thinking ahead. You have to really think about the length of time you will be in your new location and the calendar dates you will experience in that place. For example, if you are vacationing to some Caribbean island and you will be spending a Shabbat or yom tov there, you had better be prepared with food and other supplies. Never depend totally on buying local food and cooking for yourself. Yes, bring along a small electric portable cook top. But always bring some ingredients so you are ready to cook the day you arrive. Don’t assume you will simply run out to the grocery store and buy everything you need because, practically speaking, that may not happen the day you arrive or even the next day. Transportation to a store can be costly and complicated. You may be exhausted from your trip. You may arrive late. And you never can be sure what ingredients you will find, or what the costs may be for those ingredients. So I usually try to bring along a small amount of rice, noodles, a good amount of bread and/or matza/ and or crackers, and of course some canned staples like tuna. If you keep chalav yisrael bring some cheese along. And of course if you are not going somewhere that you know would have kosher chickens, bring along some chickens (either pre cooked or raw). Bring along a few pots and spoons, a knife (possibly a carrot peeler), tin foil, plastic baggies, some plastic plates and cups (and even Styrofoam bowls if you want soup or cereal and milk) and don’t forget candles, matches, and even extra candles for havdalah.

You may think all this sounds extreme but I have been in situations where we forgot candles and matches. How did we light candles? Well, we got very creative. We rolled up some torn pieces of a paper plate, lit them on the electric stove top and quickly used that to light our Shabbat candles…was it easy? No! Therefore, take supplies. Think ahead.

2. If you get to a hotel that does not have a freezer (which happened to me) but they do have a small mini fridge, you can still keep some products frozen by doing the following: get a large bag full of ice (most hotels have free ice machines) and put that ice bag in the bottom of the fridge. This will turn your fridge into quite an efficient freezer (well, not a freezer to actually freeze all your foods, but cold enough to keep the frozen items still frozen, at least partially). It works surprisingly well! But you do need to change the bag of ice often enough as it melts.

3. If you do not have either a fridge or freezer where you are staying, you still can take bags full of ice, keep them in the bathroom sink, and put your food (well closed up in bags) on top the ice or kind of a bit nestled into the ice, but since the ice will melt , you have to keep replacing it and make sure your foods do not get full of water.

4. If you do not have pot holders or a table cloth, you can use hotel towels for that purpose. You can always get extra towels if you need to. I always use a towel to put hot pots on top of after i finish cooking because the counters/tables are not kosher.

5. Think carefully about clothing for a trip. Do not over pack. It just makes it heavy to shlep. But think what you will need practically speaking (we always tend to over pack): ie. A bathing suit (if you will be swimming), two pairs of clothing (in case one gets dirty), a house coat to wear in the hotel room which you don’t mind getting dirty, pyjamas, extra underwear, a couple of tichels (I am just writing for women: men have to consider the clothing they need). If you will be away during the time that you may have to count your seven clean days, bring along bedika cloths! It is always good to travel with a package anyway, just in case….

6. Bring slippers to wear in the hotel room/ pool area etc. Also bring sandals if you will be in a hot place, or sneakers if in a cold place or you need to do a lot of walking.

7. Bring a siddur, Chitas or any books you may need while away. (But again, travel light as possible)

8. If you will be away over Shabbat, remember to bring ready made Challahs, cake or cookies and any baked products that you cannot make in a hotel. I even cook gefilte fish, freeze it, and bring it ready made. I try to make Shabbat with one pot (in other words, I put chicken into one pot, cook it and then add vegetables, rice or potatoes and use that for two meals, Friday night and Shabbat lunch). Canned baked beans work well on the side. Also cold cuts can come in very handy. They last well when traveling.

9. In baggies, you can bring salt, sugar, cocoa and even tea or coffee (nobody wants to run out and buy entire bags of sugar or salt just for a one week vacation!). So think carefully about what you may wish to cook or may need. I even bring tea bags with me: why should I buy an entire package of tea for a few days?

10. okay, so that is basically vacation or business trips. Now what about moving from one house to another, in the same city? So that is of course more complicated. Pack in a very organized fashion. As you pack, get rid of garbage. Yes, throw out things you accumulated for years, especially if you are not moving to a bigger home, and maybe it is even smaller. It takes some emotional work to let go of things that have sentimental value, but do it: you will be so much happier afterwards. Give charity. When we moved we gave away bags and bags of clothing (good condition) as well as furniture, pots and pans etc. However, if you can use things in your new home, dont throw those out so fast or you will end up having to buy new ones, which can be costly and a waste of time.

11. Label all boxes and packages as you pack: for example, girls’ clothes, boys clothes, seforim from living room, milchig pots, fleishig dishes etc. etc. (label clearly, it makes unpacking so much easier). Another good point is to write on the boxes what room to put them in: living room, kitchen, master bedroom etc. so when the movers are asking where to put the boxes, you can easily direct them to the right area. It makes your work much easier afterwards. Also label anything that is delicate or fragile so you also realize to open those boxes carefully or handle them carefully.

12. Make sure to bring your fridge/ freezer to the new house right away (ask that your fridge should be transported first and unloaded quickly, which may mean having it put on the truck last so it will be taken off first) and immediately plug it in (unless you have a fridge and freezer there already) so you can transfer your foods that need to be kept cold immediately and they wont spoil.

13. Make sure to arrange food for the day that you will be moving so you don’t have to take time to go eat in a restaurant and you also wont be starving. You need to have things organized for at least the day of the move and the next morning for breakfast (until you actually start to unpack your pots etc.). You can make sandwiches, kugels, potato salad, egg salad or just boiled eggs, wraps, even sushi….anything you could eat without really heating it up. Make sure to have ready enough snacks and drinks for your kids. Lots of water because going back and forth between houses you will need water in both places. Keep some plastic disposable cups in both houses until you are done with the move to facilitate drinks (and the moving people may ask for water too). If your new kitchen needs koshering and you cant do it immediately or could not do it before moving in, you can still kasher one or two burners on the stove top and use that for cooking immediately.

14. Keep out some clothing you need for immediate use and sheets for beds as well as pillows etc. and also some towels so when you get to the new house, you have all of that ready to use and don’t have to wait until you unpack everything. In other words, DONT PACK EVERYTHING. Those items you will need for immediate use you should pack separately or even bring yourself in your car to the new house so you have it all there right away. That would include some pots, spoons, and other kitchen items you need for immediate use and anything for sleeping, showering etc.

15. If you have babies, make sure you know where their bottles are, bottle brushes, pacifiers and diapers so you don’t frantically spend hours searching for those items while the babies cry.

16. If the house you are moving into is not in great condition, clean it before moving in. It really makes things easier and so much more pleasant.

17. Make sure to already put in the bathrooms toilet paper etc. These are items that you definitely will need. Same with shampoo, soap, dishwashing liquid etc.

18. When you move, take with you dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, brooms and mops (that are still in decent condition). It is always better to arrive with these things ready than to have to run out shopping and buy everything new.

19. Okay, now for moving overseas. That is a whole other matter, far more complicated. But the basic ideas are the same: think carefully! Realize that it could take an entire month or more for your household goods to arrive. Therefore you need to think about what you will need for 6 to 8 weeks. And remember: ALL BEGINNINGS ARE DIFFICULT! But it does get easier with time. Take the difficulties with a sense of humor: it really does help. If you can laugh at all the hardships, it will become easier and more bearable and it is a great example to show your children.

20. Think about clothing for everyone (I once moved to a new country , packing very minimal clothing for the children because we shipped our things with an airline who claimed it would be there within a week: to make a long story short, it took us over a month to receive our items and my children were very short of clothing, which was very embarrassing when they went to shul etc.). So take enough clothing for everyone. Babies need a lot of changes of clothing: don’t assume you can do tons of laundry. You may not be able to initially and it is certainly helpful to have enough clothing with you.

21. And again, think of practicality: you need to cook, so bring some pots and pans and basic kitchen items. You need to think about Shabbat, so bring candles and havdalah candles, and any other Jewish items you may need (yes, that includes dreidels and some sort of menorah if it is Chanukah time) and enough siddurim (prayer books) for everyone. Every single item you bring will come in handy and will save you time and energy in a new country, trying to get to a place to buy it.

22. I even took along tin foil, plastic wrap and other such items and I was glad I did because until we could arrange a car for transportation or get to the shopping area, it took a while and we needed to have a way to package foods etc.

23. When moving to a new country, of course all the above tips apply, including carefully labeling all boxes and items. Make sure to label your pots and pans clearly (also pesach supplies, so nothing gets mixed up). You could be surprised what you might forget in all the confusion when the things arrive: ie. Which things are milchig or fleishig. Never assume you would just know everything. Label, label, label!

24. If you will be arriving to a house with no furniture and there is nobody to lend you mattresses etc. if you have things like sleeping bags that could be used to sleep on initially, bring those with you on the plane. You have to bring on the plane a lot of things you will need initially, even if it means paying extra luggage. It is worth it, believe me.

25. If you do arrive in a new country and you need to buy some furniture immediately until your stuff arrives, just buy whatever is inexpensive and the minimum (for example, we bought some folding tables (plastic ones) that could be packed away when our stuff arrives but that also could be used for Succot) and we bought plastic chairs that are stackable. We bought some heavy blankets to sleep on the floor (having in mind we would use them to cover ourselves when the weather got cold).

26. Bring food with you. Remember, when you arrive in a new country, you are exhausted, often have a time change to contend with, you are in a foreign place where you don’t know your way around yet, you probably don’t have immediate transportation, and you do not know when or where you will find kosher food. So bring enough. It is good to bring baked chicken (even pre sliced and ready to eat), cold cuts or sliced roast, lots of bread, cakes and cookies, nuts, crackers or dry goods that do not need refrigeration, and some canned foods like tuna. Think about the next day’s food as well: what will you eat for breakfast and even for lunch and supper? If you have little children, they need to eat. They cannot wait until you go shopping. Long shelf life milk comes in handy as well, if you can find that, or even powdered milk that you can mix with water. Children often want cereal and milk and until you can run out and buy milk (especially chalav yisrael milk) then it helps to have dry milk or long shelf life milk that you can travel with. Almond milk is useful too. Pack some cereal and crackers/rice cakes and dry snack foods as well. Don’t forget, if you have a long plane trip and also when you arrive at your new location you may not immediately have refrigeration, so dry foods and snacks do come in very useful to keep children happy and full until you can manage to get some substantial food prepared.

27. Another important point: bring along a smile! When you travel or move, everyone is stressed and tired. So try not to kvetch too much…… As the mother, it is important to keep up your family’s spirits. (of course you need to rest enough, eat enough and not get over tired, but do your best….when your husband and children see you happy, the impact of moving to a foreign environment becomes easier). The woman is the home. She sets the tone of the home. She makes the home. So always remember your family depends on you to give them a sense of security and stability. Even if you move 100 times, as long as you are happy and you bring light and kedusha into the house, the children feel happy and hopeful and adjust to their new surroundings with simcha…because the surroundings may be new, but the home still feels the same. And from the home the husband and children get the strength to go out into the world and shine light. The Jewish home is the point of light…from there the light spreads out.

28. As difficulty as moving can be (and it is difficult!), always keep in mind that G-d directs the footsteps of a person to wherever they are meant to be, in order to elevate whatever sparks are connected to that neshomah (soul). The whole world is G-d’s home so we can all feel at home wherever we are as long as we keep ourselves connected to the light and holiness. This is the idea of making the entire world a dwelling place for G-d.